1. Study suggests socioeconomic status may be linked to differences in the vocabulary growth

    December 10, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Texas at Dallas press release:

    The nation’s 31 million children growing up in homes with low socioeconomic status have, on average, significantly smaller vocabularies compared with their peers.

    A new study from the Callier Center for Communication Disorders at The University of Texas at Dallas found these differences in vocabulary growth among grade school children of different socioeconomic statuses are likely related to differences in the process of word learning.

    Dr. Mandy Maguire, associate professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS), said in her study that children from lower-income homes learned 10 percent fewer words than their peers from higher-income homes. When entering kindergarten, children from low-income homes generally score about two years behind their higher-income peers on language and vocabulary measures.

    The vocabulary gap between the two groups of children gets larger throughout their schooling and has long-term academic implications, Maguire said.

    The primary reason for the differences in infancy and preschool is related to different quantity and quality of language exposure at home. But why the gap increases as the children get older is less studied.

    “We might assume that it’s the same reason that the gap is large when they’re young: that their environment is different,” Maguire said. “Another possibility is that all of this time spent in low-income situations has led to differences in their ability to learn a word. If that’s the case, there’s a problem in the mechanism of learning, which is something we can fix.”

    The study, recently published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, aimed to determine whether socioeconomic status is related to word learning in grade school and to what degree vocabulary, reading and working memory might mediate that relationship.

    For the study, 68 children ages 8 to 15 performed a task that required using the surrounding text to identify the meaning of an unknown word. One exercise included three sentences, each with a made-up word at the end — for example, “Mom piled the pillows on the thuv.”

    “You have to understand all of the language in each sentence leading up to the made-up word, remember it and decide systematically across all three sentences what the made-up word must mean,” Maguire said. “In this case, the three sentences all indicated ‘thuv’ meant ‘bed.’ This isn’t quite the same as real word learning, where we have to create a new concept, but this what we think kids — and adults — do as they initially learn a word.”

    Specifically, the study found that children of lower socioeconomic status are not as effective at using known vocabulary to build a robust picture or concept of the incoming language and use that to identify the meaning of an unknown word.

    Reading and working memory — also known to be problematic for children from low-income homes — were not found to be related.

    The study also provides potential strategies that may be effective for intervention. For children ages 8 to 15, schools may focus too much on reading and not enough on increasing vocabulary through oral methods, Maguire said.

    Maguire said parents and teachers can help children identify relationships between words in sentences, such as assigning a word like “bakery,” and having the child list as many related words as possible in one minute. Visualizing the sentences as they read also can help.

    “Instead of trying to fit more vocabulary in a child’s head, we might be able to work on their depth of knowledge of the individual words and linking known meanings together in a way that they can use to learn new information,” Maguire said.

    This study was funded by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, which was awarded in April 2016.

    Three co-authors of the paper are BBS doctoral students who work in Maguire’s Developmental Neurolinguistics Laboratory: Julie M. Schneider, Anna E. Middleton and Yvonne Ralph. Lab coordinator Michael Lopez and Dr. Robert Ackerman, an associate professor, also are co-authors, along with Dr. Alyson Abel, a recent Callier Center postdoctoral fellow who is an assistant professor at San Diego State University.


  2. Study suggests major life events shared on social media revive dormant connections

    December 5, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Notre Dame press release:

    Online social networking has revolutionized the way people communicate and interact with one another, despite idiosyncrasies we all love to hate — think top-10 lists of the most annoying people and habits on social media.

    However, there are specific advantages to using social media, beyond the simple joys — and occasional annoyances — of reconnecting and gossiping with old friends about babies, birthdays and baptisms.

    New research from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business examines the impact of major life events, such as getting married or graduating from college, on social network evolution, which, the study shows, has important implications for business practices, such as in marketing.

    “Who Cares About Your Big Day? Impact of Life Events on Dynamics of Social Networks,” forthcoming in Decision Sciences by Hong Guo, associate professor of business analytics, and Sarv Devaraj, professor of business, (along with Arati Srinivasan of Providence College), shows that major life events not only get more social media attention overall, but also bring long dormant connections back into social interaction.

    The researchers specifically focus on two key characteristics of individuals’ social networks: indegree of ties and relational embeddedness. Indegree is the number of ties directed to an individual. Those with high indegree centrality are assumed to be the most popular, prestigious and powerful people in a network due to the many connections that they have with others.

    “We find that the indegree of ties increases significantly following a major life event, and that this impact is stronger for more active users in the network,” Guo says. “Interestingly, we find that the broadcast of major life events helps to revive dormant ties as reflected by a decrease in embeddedness following a life event.”

    Relational embeddedness is the extent to which a user communicates with only a subset of partners. Social networking sites allow users to manage a larger network of weak ties and at the same time provide a mechanism for the very rapid dissemination of information pertaining to important life events such as engagements, weddings or births.

    “We show that major events provide an opportunity for users to revive communication with their dormant ties while simultaneously eliciting responses or communication from a user’s passive or weak ties,” Guo says. “Increased communication with weak ties thereby reduces the extent of embeddedness. We also find that one-time life events, such as weddings, have a greater impact than recurring life events like birthdays on the evolution of individuals’ social networks.”

    So why does this matter outside of our social media circles?

    “Knowing this, advertisers may better target their ads to major life events. For example, a travel agent marketing a honeymoon package can target a user who has shared that they just got married,” Guo says. “From the social networking sites’ perspective, various design features may be set up to enable and entice users to better share their life events, like how Facebook helps friends promote birthdays.”


  3. Study suggests social ties could help with cancer management

    December 3, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Brigham and Women’s Hospital press release:

    Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital led by Ying Bao, MD, ScD, an epidemiologist in BWH’s Channing Division of Network Medicine and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, have found that women with stronger social networks had better survival after colorectal cancer diagnosis and conclude that social network strengthening could be a tool for management of colorectal cancer.

    Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed and second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. At current rates, approximately 5% of individuals will develop a cancer of the colon or rectum within their lifetime. Though social network research has been done in other diseased populations, very few studies have examined the association between social network and survival in varying cancer sites.

    The team utilized data from 896 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study and had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer between 1992 and 2012. Social integration was assessed every four years during that time using the Berkman-Syme Social Networks Index; the value scale accounts for factors like marital status, social network size, contact frequency and religious or social group participation. This helped organize a patient rating system that identified patients on a range from socially isolated to socially integrated.

    The findings indicated that, overall, women with high levels of social integration before a colorectal cancer diagnosis had significantly reduced risk of all-cause and colorectal cancer-specific mortality, particularly among older women. Though the number of extended ties (religious or social group participation) weren’t associated with survival, the presence of more intimate ties (family and friends) was associated with a significantly lower death rate.

    “When a patient is diagnosed, health care providers can look to the patient’s social network to see if it provides necessary resources or whether outside help might be something to consider,” said Bao who is also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. “That could be assistance from social workers, for example, to ensure access to care. For physicians, portions of a care plan aimed at strengthening a patient’s social network can be valuable tools that haven’t always been considered in the past.”

    Due to the complexity of network interactions, there are many pathways through which social networks could cause improved survival among cancer patients. Some prior research indicates that higher levels of social integration are associated with lower levels of inflammation and thus disease progression; other studies indicate it relates to a reduction in psychological stress and poor health behaviors that may contribute to cancer progression. Support from social networks, such as assistance in getting to medical appointments, reminders to take medications, and help with nutrition and mobility, may also explain the observed association. Future investigations are required to understand how these factors are influencing different kinds of patients and their care plans.


  4. Study links non-fearful social withdrawal to creativity

    November 30, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University at Buffalo press release:

    Everyone needs an occasional break from the social ramble, though spending too much time alone can be unhealthy and there is growing evidence that the psychosocial effects of too much solitude can last a lifetime.

    But newly published research by a University at Buffalo psychologist suggests that not all forms of social withdrawal are detrimental.

    In fact, the research findings published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences suggest that one form of social withdrawal, referred to as unsociability, is not only unrelated to negative outcomes, but linked positively to creativity.

    “Motivation matters,” says Julie Bowker, an associate professor in UB’s Department of Psychology and lead author of the study, which is the first study of social withdrawal to include a positive outcome.

    “We have to understand why someone is withdrawing to understand the associated risks and benefits,” she says.

    Bowker’s study results are reminiscent of realities that surface in literature, from Thoreau’s retreat to Walden to Thomas Merton’s work as a cloistered monk, but for all the conversation and examples about the benefits of withdrawing to nature or reconnecting to the self, the pursuit has remained something that hasn’t been well investigated in the psychological literature, according to Bowker.

    Until now.

    “When people think about the costs associated with social withdrawal, often times they adopt a developmental perspective,” she says. “During childhood and adolescence, the idea is that if you’re removing yourself too much from your peers, then you’re missing out on positive interactions like receiving social support, developing social skills and other benefits of interacting with your peers.

    “This may be why there has been such an emphasis on the negative effects of avoiding and withdrawing from peers.”

    But, in recent years, Bowker says there is growing recognition for the different reasons why youth withdraw from and avoid peers, and that the risk associated with withdrawal depends on the underlying reason or motivation.

    Some people withdraw out of fear or anxiety. This type of social withdrawal is associated with shyness. Others appear to withdraw because they dislike social interaction. They are considered socially avoidant.

    But some people withdraw due to non-fearful preferences for solitude. These individuals enjoy spending time alone, reading or working on their computers. They are unsociable. Unlike shyness and avoidance, research consistently shows that unsociability is unrelated to negative outcomes. But, Bowker’s study is the first to link it to a positive outcome, creativity.

    “Although unsociable youth spend more time alone than with others, we know that they spend some time with peers. They are not antisocial. They don’t initiate interaction, but also don’t appear to turn down social invitations from peers. Therefore, they may get just enough peer interaction so that when they are alone, they are able to enjoy that solitude. They’re able to think creatively and develop new ideas — like an artist in a studio or the academic in his or her office,” says Bowker.

    In the study, shyness and avoidance were related negatively to creativity. Bowker thinks that “shy and avoidant individuals may be unable to use their solitude time happily and productively, maybe because they are distracted by their negative cognitions and fears.”

    For the study, 295 participants reported on their different motivations for social withdrawal. Other self-report measures assessed creativity, anxiety sensitivity, depressive symptoms, aggression, and the behavioral approach system (BAS), which regulates approach behaviors and desires, and the behavioral inhibition system (BIS), which regulates avoidant behaviors and desires.

    Bowker says there is some overlap in the types of social withdrawal. Someone might be high in shyness, but also have some tendency toward unsociability. But, the results from her study show that when the research controls for all the subtypes, the three types of social withdrawal are related differently to outcomes. Not only was unsociability related positively to creativity, but the study findings also showed other unique associations, such as a positive link between shyness and anxiety sensitivity.

    “Over the years, unsociability has been characterized as a relatively benign form of social withdrawal. But, with the new findings linking it to creativity, we think unsociability may be better characterized as a potentially beneficial form of social withdrawal.”


  5. Study suggests materialists collect Facebook friends and spend more time on social media

    November 29, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Elsevier press release:

    If you’re materialistic, you’re likely to use Facebook more frequently and intensely. A new paper in Heliyon reveals that materialistic people see and treat their Facebook friends as “digital objects,” and have significantly more friends than people who are less interested in possessions. It also shows that materialists have a greater need to compare themselves with others on Facebook.

    The study reveals that materialistic people use Facebook to both achieve their goals and feel good. The authors of the paper, from the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, have developed a new theory to explain this: The Social Online Self-Regulation Theory.

    “Materialistic people use Facebook more frequently because they tend to objectify their Facebook friends — they acquire Facebook friends to increase their possession,” said lead author Phillip Ozimek. “Facebook provides the perfect platform for social comparisons, with millions of profiles and information about people. And it’s free — materialists love tools that do not cost money!”

    The researchers first conducted an online questionnaire with 242 Facebook users. The questionnaire asked participants to rate their agreement with statements in order to calculate their Facebook activity (such as “I’m posting photographs”), social comparison orientation (“I often compare how I am doing socially”), materialism (“My life would be better if I owned certain things I don’t have”), objectification of Facebook friends (“Having many Facebook friends contributes more success in my personal and professional life”) and instrumentalization of Facebook friends (“To what extent do you think Facebook friends are useful in order to attain your goals?”).

    The results suggested that the link between materialism and Facebook activity can be partly explained by materialists displaying a stronger social comparison orientation, having more Facebook friends, and objectifying and instrumentalizing their friends more intensely.

    The authors replicated the approach with a separate sample of 289 Facebook users, containing fewer students and more males than the first sample, and they reached the same conclusions. The Social Online Self-Regulation Theory they developed extends this further, saying that social media is a tool for achieving important goals in life. For materialists, Facebook is a tool to learn how far away they are from their goal to become wealthy.

    The researchers emphasize that their results should not cast social media in a negative light; instead, they assume people use platforms like Facebook to feel good, have fun and achieve their goals.

    “Social media platforms are not that different from other activities in life — they are functional tools for people who want to attain goals in life, and some might have negative consequences for them or society,” Ozimek explained. “We found that materialists instrumentalize their friends, but they also attain their goal to compare themselves to others. It seems to us that Facebook is like a knife: it can be used for preparing yummy food or it can be used for hurting a person. In a way, our model provides a more neutral perspective on social media.”


  6. Theory linking cognition, genes and income refuted

    by Ashley

    From the Northwestern University press release:

    Researchers have cast doubt on a widely-held belief that connects family income with cognitive development, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    A popular theory holds that genes play a larger role in brain development for children from advantaged environments than in those from poorer backgrounds, especially in the United States.

    But in the largest study to date using matched birth and school records, the researchers from Northwestern University, Stanford University and the University of Florida found family income won’t necessarily mitigate the effects of genetics on cognitive outcomes.

    While children from higher socio-economic status backgrounds have much better cognitive outcomes on average than those from lower socio-economic status households, genetics appear to matter just as much for both groups,” said Northwestern economist David Figlio, study lead author and dean of the School of Education and Social Policy. “Genes matter. Environment matters. But we find no evidence that the two interact.”

    Some studies suggest that the difference in genetic influence between rich and poor families is particularly pronounced in the U.S., but the Florida data, which includes records of siblings and twins, calls this idea into question, the researchers said.

    The finding mildly surprised Figlio, but he said it falls in line with his previous work published in American Economic Review, which indicated that heavier babies do better in school. In that study of Florida children, Figlio and his coauthors found that those who were heavier at birth scored higher on math and reading tests in the third to eighth grades, and that the relationship between birth weight and test scores is essentially the same for everybody.

    “It’s definitely still true that, from the point of view of test scores, you’d rather be a tiny baby from a wealthy family than a big baby from a poor family,” said Figlio, faculty fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. “But birth weight matters, and it matters for everyone. It seems the same effect is at play here.”

    A full understanding of how genes interact with the environment for cognition is more complex and elusive than previously supposed, the researchers said.

    “Being able to say that ‘genes’ matter more for this group versus that group is appealing partly for its simplicity,” said study co-author Jeremy Freese of Stanford. “We suspect the truth is more complicated: Some genes may matter more in richer families and other genes may matter in poorer families. There’s no overall characterization.”

    Freese emphasized that genetic differences do matter in cognitive development. “But we are still far from understanding how in any useful way,” he said. “Meanwhile, we know poor children face many social disadvantages, and there is much we can do to address those to help promote the flourishing of all children.”


  7. Study looks at difference in effect between a walk in the mall or in the park

    November 28, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences press release:

    Spending time together with family may help strengthen the family bond, but new research from the University of Illinois shows that specifically spending time outside in nature — even just a 20-minute walk — together can help family members get along even better.

    The research is based on the attention restoration theory which describes how interaction with natural environments can reduce mental fatigue and restore attentional functioning. Many studies have supported the theory, but most, if not all, previous studies have only looked at the benefits of spending time in nature on an individual’s attention.

    U of I family studies researchers Dina Izenstark and Aaron Ebata believed that if this theory worked for individuals it might also work for families and help to facilitate more positive family interactions and family cohesion. So last year they developed a new theoretical approach to studying the benefits of family-based nature activities.

    “Past research shows that in nature individuals’ attention is restored but we wanted to know, what does that mean for family relationships? In our theoretical model we made the case that when an individual’s attention is restored, they are less irritable, have more self-control, and are able to pick up on social cues more easily. Because of all of those dynamics, we believe they should get along better with other family members,” Izenstark explains.

    In a new study, Izenstark, now an assistant professor at San José State University, and Ebata, an associate professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at U of I, test their theory by looking at sets of moms and daughters (ages 10-12 years) who were asked to take a walk together in nature and a walk in a mall. The researchers then tested both the mothers’ and daughters’ attention and observed their family interactions after each walk.

    The results were clear; a walk in nature increased positive interactions, helping the mothers and daughters get along better. It also restored attention, a significant effect for mothers in the study.

    “We know that both moms and daughters experience mental or attentional fatigue. It’s common especially after a full day of concentrating at work or at school,” Izenstark says. “If you think about our everyday environments, not only are you at work, but maybe your cell phone is constantly buzzing, and you’re getting emails. With all the stimuli in our everyday environments, our attention is taxed more than we realize.”

    Izenstark adds that in order to relieve some of that mental fatigue, people need to restore their directed attention. “In nature, you can relax and restore your attention which is needed to help you concentrate better. It helps your working memory.”

    To test the mothers’ and daughters’ cohesiveness and whether attention was restored, 27 mom/daughter dyads met at a homelike research lab on campus before each walk. For 10 minutes they engaged in attention-fatiguing activities (i.e. solving math problems, word searches) while a recording of loud construction music played in the background. The researchers gave them a “pre-attention” test, and then set them out on a walk — one day to a nature arboretum, and then on another day to a local indoor mall. Each walk was 20 minutes long.

    After returning from each walk, the moms and daughters were interviewed separately. They were given a “post-attention” test, and were surveyed about which location they found the most fun, boring, or interesting. They were then videotaped playing a game that required them to work together.

    For moms, attention was restored significantly after the nature walk. Interestingly, for daughters, attention was restored after both walks, which Izenstark says may be a result of spending family leisure time with their mother.

    “It was unique that for the daughters walking with moms improved their attention. But for the moms, they benefitted from being in a nature setting. It was interesting to find that difference between the family members. But when we looked at their subjective reports of what they felt about the two settings, there was no question, moms and daughters both said the nature setting was more fun, relaxing, and interesting.”

    The last aspect of the findings was in regards to improved cohesion or togetherness in the mom/daughter pairs. After analyzing the videotaped interactions during the game, the researchers only found an effect for nature; after the nature walk, moms and daughters displayed greater dyadic cohesion, a sense of unity, closeness, and the ability to get along, compared to the indoor walk.

    Although the study only focused on mothers and daughters, Izenstark says that the overall aim of the research is to examine different ways in which nature affects family relationships in general.

    “First and foremost I hope it encourages families to find ways to get outside together, and to not feel intimidated, thinking, ‘oh, I have to go outside for an hour or make it a big trip.’ Just a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood before or after eating dinner or finding pockets of time to set aside, to reconnect, not only can benefit families in the moment but a little bit after the activity as well.”


  8. Study suggests intentional teaching makes the biggest impact on early childhood outcomes

    November 25, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute press release:

    A comprehensive review of research on several measures of the quality of early childhood education suggests that the instructional practices of preschool teachers have the largest impact on young children’s academic and social skills. The review helps untangle a complicated knot of factors that affect young children.

    “High quality preschool is one of the most effective means of preparing all children to succeed in school,” said Margaret Burchinal, senior research scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “However, this review of research indicates the need to expand our definitions of quality.”

    Burchinal said her review of the science suggests the field should continue to measure the quality of relationships of preschool teachers and children, especially the sensitivity and warmth of the teachers. In addition, the review suggests factors such as the levels of education of program directors and teachers and the teacher-child ratio also influence outcomes.

    However, the areas with the strongest connection to beneficial results for young children involve what teachers teach and how they teach it.

    “The largest effects on child outcomes involve curricula,” Burchinal explained. “Some of the biggest impacts on literacy, math, and other skills involved curricula focused on those specific skills with accompanying coaching or training for teachers.”

    According to Burchinal, many of the most effective curricula incorporate planned, engaging activities for preschoolers, with a schedule of lessons and activities in a variety of learning settings. Effective learning opportunities often include some whole group instruction and more time in small groups, learning centers, and computer work.

    Burchinal also said the research shows that the teaching practice of “scaffolding” brings big benefits. “Scaffolding occurs when the adult caregiver talks with and models a learning activity for the child, making the activity fun through conversation that builds on and extends the child’s interest and knowledge about the world.”

    Some of the largest impacts on children’s outcomes have arisen from the strongest pre-kindergarten programs, Burchinal added. These programs show even larger impacts for dual-language learners and for children from low-income families.

    “These prekindergarten impacts are larger than impacts from traditionally-measured dimensions of quality,” Burchinal said. “This is further evidence that more focus on scaffolding and intentional teaching is needed.”

    Burchinal pointed to FPG’s Abecedarian Project as an example of a program that combined intentional teaching with warmth and sensitivity. The project used an intensive, language-driven approach that involved teacher scaffolding of activity-based learning to build children’s knowledge base and language skills. The center-based, birth-to-5 program for children from low-income homes famously contributed to better cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical health outcomes that have persisted for decades.

    Burchinal’s new review of research includes several studies based in the United States and other countries. “Measuring Early Care and Education” appears in “Child Development Perspectives,” which the Society for Research in Child Development publishes.

    “As we think about the components of high-quality early childhood education, our policies and practices can reflect what this research tells us,” she said. “Ideally, our new models of quality will encompass evidence-based curricula and intentional teaching within content areas, as well as professional development that focuses on the teaching practices that promote the skills young children need to succeed in school.”


  9. Study points to potential mediator for social memory formation

    November 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the National University of Singapore, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine press release:

    Research by a group of scientists at the Department of Physiology, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS Medicine) have discovered that a tiny brain region plays a critical role in the formation of social memory and interaction.

    The hippocampus, a horseshoe-shaped brain region well known for its role in the formation of memory, also acts as a natural ‘GPS’ that helps humans to explore new areas, objects and people. The team led by Dr Sajikumar Sreedharan and his graduate student Miss Ananya Dasgupta identified the specific role of a tiny area in the hippocampus: “area CA2,” which links the pieces of short-term memory events and store those memories as long-term memory.

    “Although CA2 area is not included in the conventional memory circuit because of its apparent lack of ability to form and maintain long-lasting memory, its unique role in social memory formation caught our attention. Social memory can be measured in terms of an individual’s ability to distinguish between familiar and novel faces or objects. For example, in the case of rats, an intact CA2 area helps them spend more time with newcomers, and this is a property that marks their social bonding or interaction,” said Dr Sreedharan.

    In their study, the team identified the potential role of a neuropeptide named Substance P (SP) as a mediator of social memory in area CA2. SP is already known to be released during mildly stressful situations.

    The researchers tested the effect of SP in rat hippocampal slices, mimicking mildly stressful or painful situations. They observed a slowly developing, long-lasting memory forming only in the CA2 region, when neuronal responses were recorded simultaneously from CA2 and a few other areas of the hippocampus.

    Association with strong memories can also render a weak memory stronger over time. For instance, while people may not remember the name of the wine that they had last month, they would have memories of the wine they drank on their wedding day. Thus, it is the association of a weak memory (drinking wine) with a strong memory (one’s wedding) that converts a short-term memory to a long-term memory.

    The ability to associate things and people, which is the essence of social memory, depends on a complex cellular process. The team showed for the first time that SP can also help associate a weak memory with a stronger one in area CA2 within a specific time period. This is the first demonstration of these processes in this region of the brain, which is responsible for social memory and interaction.

    “This is a major landmark study that further reinforces the link between hippocampal area CA2 and memory. It will open up new avenues to further investigate how this area is linked to social memory deficit that commonly occur in brain disorders like depression and schizophrenia,” said Professor Soong Tuck Wah, one of the team members in the study and head of the Department of Physiology at NUS Medicine.


  10. Study suggests celebrity and status may not always help companies

    November 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Notre Dame press release:

    Businesses that have attracted lots of positive media coverage and are also affiliated with high-status venture capitalists or underwriters may seem like poster children for corporate success. But new research from the University of Notre Dame shows this kind of attention may be too much of a good thing.

    The study “Safe Bets or Hot Hands? How Status and Celebrity Influence Strategic Alliance Formations by Newly Public Firms” defines the media attention aspect as “celebrity” and the venture capitalist and underwriter affiliations as “status.” Together, they serve as lenses that influence how people process other information about a firm, according to researcher Tim Hubbard, assistant professor of management in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. But possessing both assets–celebrity and status together–is actually more of a disadvantage than possessing one or the other.

    “We show that possessing multiple social approval assets might not always be beneficial,” says Hubbard. “The relative predictability of high-status firms conflicts with the rebel nature of celebrities. It’s like looking through two different–and incompatible–lenses at the same time.”

    This challenges the assumption that accumulating such assets is always beneficial. The study– co-authored by Timothy Pollock, Michael Pfarrer and Violina Rindova and forthcoming in The Academy of Management Journal–shows that managers need to think about these assets in context.

    The researchers studied 347 internet tech startups that went public in the late 1990s and early 2000s, looking at whether they had celebrity and/or high status. They examined how many strategic alliances each firm had one year after going public, based on how potential alliances viewed the firm’s underpricing (change in stock price on the first day of trading).

    While celebrities were plentiful during this period, not all had high status. For example, MapQuest, Peapod, Salon and VerticalNet were all darlings, but were not backed by the highest status actors. Some–such as Pets.com, E-loan and Infoseek–were able to attain both celebrity and high status. All of these firms had varying degrees of success in attracting strategic alliance partners.

    “Celebrity played a big part in alliance formation when the firm had high underpricing, where the stock price experienced a ‘pop’ on the first day of trading,” Hubbard says, pointing to software and consulting services company Ariba as an example. The stock price almost tripled on its first day of trading in January 2002. By the end of its first year, it had 23 strategic alliances, compared to the average number of 2.4 alliances for sample firms in the study.

    “We also discovered that firms with both celebrity and high status had fewer partners one year after their initial public offering,” says Hubbard. High status firms had 1.65 fewer alliances if they had celebrity, compared to if they didn’t.

    “It changes our perspective on how these two intangible resources influence stakeholders,” he says. “Instead of only considering the baseline benefits of status or celebrity, we need to look at how these assets color stakeholders’ perceptions of other information.”

    Hubbard hopes the research can help managers better understand the nuances of intangible assets.

    “Viewing a firm through two different lenses can be difficult,” he says. “Rather than trying to gather every intangible asset, managers should consider which ones complement their organization. Not every firm needs to be a celebrity, and not every celebrity needs to have high status.”